Let's get ready to rummmmmmmble

Well it’s that time of year again - time for the rails rumble. The magical weekend of coffee filled nights and panic-filled days enjoyed by web developers and designers alike each and every fall since time immemorial.

The Man

Here at thoughtbot, we’re proud to have Mr Kevin Burg in our employ as a web designer. If you don’t know, Kevin’s sort of a big deal - having won the first Rails Rumble in 2007 with Tasty Planner - and won the “Best Appearance” award last year with Jotly. Kevin’s a real champion of the people. I only mention it ‘cause sometimes there’s a man – I won’t say a hero, cause what’s a hero? – but sometimes there’s a man. An inspiration to young rumble participants.

Following on this success, Kevin has decided to “go out on top”, and not participate in this years Rails Rumble. I sat down with him to learn what makes him tick, and maybe offer a nugget of wisdom up to aspiring rumblers of the future.

The Interview

Kevin Burg, as a two time award winning rails rumbler who has decided to step aside and let some new blood take a crack at the belt, what advice would you offer first time rumblers?

Work as long as you can on an empty stomach. The rumble seems like a perfect opportunity to snack and drink beer but these things will slow you down and subdue the fear of failure. Fear is your only real motivator during these 48 hours. Try not to have fun.

What about designers specifically, how do they engage in the FAST PACED weekend that is the rumble?

During the first night while developers are sleeping a designer needs to produce mockups and get the design in order. If you do mockups in Photoshop try moving to HTML sooner than you typically do and worry about tweaks or improvements later on. Rails Rumble doesn’t require drug screenings so use of steroids is encouraged if you want to maintain endurance and peak performance.

What tasks do you get stuck on? How do you get out of a rut when the pressure is on?

In 2007 I spent far too long dealing with a color scheme. My goal was to do something new but I learned a valuable lesson: in the Rumble you should stick with what you know. Avoid being too volitionally experimental because under the pressure and time constraint you will encounter unique solutions naturally without needing to force them. Embrace stock icons and stock names. You don’t want to become entrenched in thinking up believable names such as “Art Bunsen”.

What app would you like to see in this year’s rumble? Are there ideas that are “too small” or “too big” to RUMBLE with?

I want to see an app that can measure arbitrary events and predict how those events will recur over time.

Do you consider yourself, in some ways, to sort of be the Jay-Z or the Michael Jordan of the rails rumble? Do you think anyone can top what you’ve done? Are you going to play minor league baseball for a year and then attempt a comeback?

I’m more like the Wreckx-n-Effect of the Rumble.

The Secret Sauce

Speaking of Stock Names, here’s a little nugget of code you can use in those tense moments when you’re searching for a fake name to use on a mock to hand your developers.

Rumble away

Well that concludes our Rumble interview. Good luck to all rumblers. We are once again sponsoring a professional wrestling style championship belt, because hey - why not? Here’s a reminder about some “get going quickly” tools available from thoughtbot:

  • Suspenders - basic rails template with sensible defaults - get up and running quickly.
  • Clearance - don’t write your own user auth, just use clearance.
  • Paperclip - easy file attachments.
  • Pacecar - generated named_scopes and helper methods.
  • Shoulda - Test helpers that DRY up common Rails’ test cases.
  • Factory Girl - Easy test data generation without the headache of fixtures.
  • High Voltage - Fire in the disco, fire in the taco bell. Don’t write a pages_controller, just drop in your pages.